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club crisco crowd
A well-marbled mob

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April 2007 Email this to a friend
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Trans Fats Boiling Over NYC Ban
Mass unrest reprise of Stonewall Rebellion
By Bill Andriette

New York Mayor Michael Blooomberg's proposal to ban trans fats from Big Apple diners and bistros impressed public-health aficionados as a bold, heart-healthy move. But the plan, enacted into law last December, has left some New Yorkers simmering on high. On the unseasonably warm night of April 1st, the anger finally flared up-- with Manhattan seeing the most serious homosexual unrest since the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Leaders of the "Crisco Rebellion" say it's the birth of a new movement that's all about "the freedom to be what you eat."

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From sous chefs to short-order cooks, New York's food professionals grated and blanched at the prohibition, which will entail replacing cheap, long-life industrial greases in their recipes with costly, edible fresh oils. Consumers also frowned at the prospect of giving up donuts and snack cakes that preserved their texture long after being consumed. Yet when it came to taking that anger from kitchens onto the streets, the job fell to a volatile slice of the Big Apple's homosexual pie.

"Day in and day out, it's been torment," says 275-pound crossdresser Margine O'Lestra of the social exclusion she experiences as American consumers increasingly reject trans fats. "The condemnation of hydrogenated oils oozing from all the unctuous talk-show hostesses, from every Brylcreamed politician-- it's like they don't want us to live." Even going to the supermarket is no longer a pleasure, O'Lestra says. "Every freshly reformulated bag of PorkChex or box of KrudKakes is screaming at me to get off the planet. And now, signs in restaurants-- 'No trans fats'!"

Spokespeople for the plus-sized gender community say they understand that Bloomberg's ban targets food-processing feedstock chemicals and not any particular class of persons. But they add that with their special lifestyles, those lines often bulge and blur.

Man's poison, woman's medicine?

Trans-fats coat blood vessels and promote hardening, helping cut flow of oxygen and nutrients to unwanted sex organs. And the oily film that the indigestible fats deposit throughout interior body cavities helps reduce inflammation from silicon implants, while enhancing the half-life of estrogen therapy.

Beyond the practical details, many supersized transgendered individuals personally identify with the artificially constructed lipids, which are painstakingly manufactured under high-pressure/ high-temperature conditions beyond any known in nature. The process yields a molecular structure with hydrogen chains that chemists describe as "kinked."

But in trying to plumb the curious affinity of the transgendered to partially-hydrogenated fats, sometimes it all just comes down to mouthfeel.

"It's not only the hit to self-esteem," Ms O'Lestra tells The Guide. "It's infuriating to watch the comfort foods you loved from boyhood getting raped before your eyes. Trans-fat free Ding Dongs and Ho Ho's? That's a sacrilege-- like gefilte fish made from shrimp, or sushi without the ketchup."

Passions blaze

Certainly, righteous anger of Old Testament proportions-- along with plenty of big hair and surgically-enhanced cleavage-- was on parade the night of April 1st. That's when furious patrons of Club Crisco-- the trendy East Village bar/bistro-- made history by charging out onto Avenue A and mounting barricades rather than sliding meekly as expected into waiting paddy wagons.

The spark lighting the fumes was another Health Department raid-- this time backed up by an Uzi-wielding NYPD terrorism squad. A visit from authorities was hardly unexpected. Club Crisco was flouting health regulations by its very name. Word was that only fat payoffs and greased palms were keeping owner "Ma" Zola-- a saucy ex-con pre-op from Sing Sing-- out of the clinker in the "oil-for-food scandal"-- precisely the phrase Zagat's used to condemn Crisco's grub.

Yet its very shady reputation made Crisco a favorite haunt of trans- and au courant metro-sexuals-- along with bored UN diplomats, who would whisper to friends that the bar/bistro was le dernier cri in retro cuisine. The club's signature Crisco-on-Wonderbread sandwiches and Fried Margarine Pie were washed down with copious draughts of absinthe far exceeding legal limits for wormwood.

At least that was the menu through the night of March 31st, before Health Department inspectors made their fateful midnight raid on Club Crisco's kitchen. In hot pursuit of illegal foodstuffs, they pushed in through the back door, manhandling the blue-bonnetted cooks before thrusting hard into the main dining hall, with its yellowed Parkay-colored floors.

"Get down on the ground-- you fuckers are under arrest!" screamed truncheon-wielding officers at patrons they knew they'd nab for possession. There was a moment of silence when nobody moved. Suddenly "Ma" Zola shot out of a hidden larder, shouting "The Crisco's not going back into the can!"

That was signal for rebellion. Once patrons and staff had made up their mind to fight back, there was no stopping the stampede out the door and past the cops, who parted ranks rather than face flattening.

In a blink, the ample-figured gender-benders were pouring along Houston Street onto FDR Drive, and spreading en masse down to the financial district. There they were joined by a heavy reinforcement-- coming over the Trans Hudson line-- of hausfraus from the Jersey suburbs, many of whom would be revealing their cross-state status for the first time. The engorged crowd rioted through the night, pelting hapless officers with soya-flour Hostess UpChucks grabbed out of the smashed windows of Avenue C bodegas.

Victory savored

From her impromptu podium-- a fluourescent- orange 50-gallon oil drum at the Bowery exit- ramp-- "Ma" Zola addressed the throng. "You luscious, zaftig, full-figured Amazons," she proclaimed, "tonight we showed the Fleishmänner of the Health-Gestapo that we're not Schweine to the slaughter." Dramatically waiting until dawn broke over Queens, Zola announced the founding of Transgendereds Fighting Against Tyranny (Trans FAT), and inducted the protesters as founding sisters.

As the sun climbed higher, it was clear the rioters would not be dislodged even as morning rush-hour loomed. Soon, gridlock reigned from Canarsie to Staten Island. "Today Trans FATs really are clogging arteries!" she exclaimed to Bronx cheers from the well-marbled mob.

The standoff continued into late morning, and business throughout the city ground to a halt like an engine run out of oil. Stocks continued their decline. "The trading this morning is the only thing looking thin today on Wall Street," quipped a Dow Jones blogger.

Panicked, business leaders pressed Bloomberg to negotiate. The mayor, however, said he would never give in to "outsized lawlessness."

But by noon-- with Exxon, Shell, and Wesson threatening to abandon the city-- Bloomberg blinked and summoned "Ma" Zola to City Hall for talks. The negotiations, he told the Daily News later, were "tough as nails." But by 3:30pm, over a late lunch of grass-fed corned beef and shredded potatoes browned in canola, an agreement was hashed out. Both "Ma" Zola and Bloomberg declared victory.

The trans-fat ban in eateries would stand, according to the plan, with an exception made for spreads on breads, saving Club Crisco's eponymous sandwich, and leading The Post to smear the armistice as "Promise Margarine." To assure trans folks' self-esteem, no longer could cafes (nor boxes of Oreos or Aunt Jemima mix) crow about being "trans-fat-free"-- a term that, along with "nigger," would be erased from the city's lexicon. Crisco and classic-formula Ho Ho's would still be available by prescription, and Bloomberg promised a culinary commission to look into possible applications of silicon-based gels and hairsprays to meals prepared in city schools and hospitals. As well, the agreement sharply upped minimum- required hormone levels in Big Apple milk and meat.

All the while, protesters were sitting it out, broiling in the sun and chasing away their appetites by nibbling unused UpChucks. Suddenly "Ma" Zola's voice poured forth from city soundtrucks, declaring the Crisco Rebellion a victory for Trans FAT. The massed crowd gleefully resorted over traffic-free avenues back to the still- shuttered Club Crisco for a street party. "Ma" Zola vowed to reopen that night with a cheeseburger and egg-cream combo that would put sex-change surgeons out of business for good.

Author Profile:  Bill Andriette
Bill Andriette is features editor of The Guide
Email: theguide@guidemag.com

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